Nilanjana Dasgupta, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, made headlines in 2105 for her study suggesting that female undergraduates in engineering were much more likely to participate in problem-solving group activities when they made up more than half the group. Dasgupta and Tara Dennehy, a graduate student in social psychology UMass-Amherst, have new study out this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that could help engineering programs further support women.
For the paper, “Female Peer Mentors Early in College Increase Women's Positive Academic experiences and Retention in Engineering,” the authors had 150 female engineering students meet with peer female or male mentors, or no mentors at all, once a month for a year. Students’ experiences were surveyed three times in the first year and once again a year later. Survey responses and retention data showed that female mentors positively influenced mentees’ retention, as well as their feelings of confidence, motivation and belonging and desire to continue in engineering as a career. Male mentors had no such effect.